Continued from Day 9: Higashi Honganji, Fushimi Inari, and Kinkakuji.
Our second day in Kyoto was just as packed as our the previous day. Our first stop was a visit to the Kyoto Imperial Palace — rescheduled from the previous day due to Imperial Household requirements. We tried visiting the day before, but we had ran out of slots for the free tour so the Agency put us on the first tour the next day.
We arrived at the palace ten minutes before our tour would start, so we spent a couple of minutes checking out the souvenir shop. When the guide arrived and herded us out to the gardens, it was a simple matter of following her around and making sure we did not wander into any unrestricted zones.
For something that is over a hundred fifty years old, the place looks pristine and new. This is mainly due to three reasons: 1) the Imperial Palace is the “newer” of the two Kyoto Palaces — the Heian Palace located west of the current palace is the original capital from one thousand years prior; 2) the Emperor no longer lives here — his permanent residence is in Tokyo’s Imperial Palace; and 3) many of the buildings have actually been rebuilt due to fire and war.
But all that history aside, the Palace is a beautiful gem, and you cannot take a bad photo. I think the worst part about the tour for me were the annoying fellow tourists in the group >.> There was a Caucasian couple who would clinch and lock lips at every single stop we made on the tour, and then there was this big old white man who insisted on standing (for a very long time!) in the middle of the scenery — ruining everyone’s shots in the process. Boo :(
But the prettiness of all the cherry tree and plum blossoms cheered us up, so we just laughed at our fellow tourists’ shenanigans and headed to lunch. After a working man’s lunch at Japanese beef bowl place Matsuya (much better than Yoshinoya IMO — they have curry! <3), we walked down the length of the palace walls to the bus for Kiyomizudera.
That’s when we stumbled upon the numerous cherry and plum trees dotting Kyoto Gyoen, or the Imperial Palace Gardens. Unlike the trees in Tokyo that were still wrapped in cold, the cherry trees in Kyoto were starting to blossom in the warm sunshine. We deviated from our plans and spent the next hour strolling through the park.
When we finally got off our bus at Kiyomizudera, it was a steep uphill climb flanked by souvenir and sweet shops. The shopping street was a treat — there was so much to see and eat and buy. I was in awe of the variety of “Kyoto-limited” versions of my favorite Japanese candy — including Meiji Apollo and Kit-kat. We also stopped at one of the shops and had matcha crepe cake and matcha vanilla soft serve ice cream and matcha cookies and matcha cream puffs and — hmm did I miss anything? Ah yes — sakura cream puffs NOM NOM NOM <3
Kiyomizudera — even in the barrenness of pre-sakura spring, was a sight to behold. Flanked by clear blue skies and the mountains of Kyoto — it was anime-cell perfect. Even if it was crawling with tourists and students on spring break, there was no denying its grandeur and sense of history. One touch I especially liked was the bevy of pretty young girls of various nationalities decked out in full kimono (from the many rental shops along the shopping street) — they certainly brightened up the place. I will return to this beautiful temple soon, and return gladly.
The last treat for the day was an hour at our hotel’s outdoor bath. Nagomi Ryokan Yuu had a small but very pretty outdoor bath that they rented out to guests by the hour. At just JPY 2000 for one to three or JPY 2500 for four, one hour in the steaming hot waters did wonders for our tired and aching bodies. If you ever get the chance to visit an outdoor bath in Japan — Kyoto, Tokyo, or Sapporo, go! It’s great fun, and is an experience you won’t forget <3
Continued in Day 11: Asakusa and Odaiba.